Monday, 9 July 2012

Haven : afternoon tea

I loved the idea of afternoon tea even before I had ever had one.

When I was young I fell in love with English literature. Agatha Christie was probably one of the first authors I discovered and I read her books as much for the Old England atmoshphere as the mysteries. Then the Brontë sisters, George Eliot, Mary Webb, Dickens (my grand-mother had an old French edition of the Pickwicks Papers and I have very vivid memories of reading them when on holidays at hers). And later again Barbara Pym, Elisabeth Gaskell, Thomas Hardy, Jane Austen, Woodehouse, Virginia Wolf, Evelyn Waugh, etc. 

As when reading Agatha Christie I was attracted very much by the atmosphere and some qualities I associated with Great Britain. Afternoon tea, alien to our French ways, was particularly appealing. Either cosy, the epitome of family life, a respite during a rainy afternoon, or a social occasion where etiquette is law and the unfortunate non-initiate certainly won't find any comfort in the ritual.

When we came to live in England, afternoon tea was at first a curiosity, a dip into my favourite books. But it truly became my haven after we lost our first baby. For one thing there were cakes : the power of comfort food! The cup of tea of course, warm and strong and lovely. The fragrance. The idleness. The urbanity. And maybe the link to younger days with no such pain felt, of hours spent reading my favourite books. An afternoon tea was a way to escape into them again when I barely had the energy to read anything.

So here are some of the places where I have had afternoon tea and found haven : The White Horse, Romsey. One of the first places where we had afternoon tea in the country and made us wishe we lived in Romsey!
Overton Gallery, in Overton|. A lovely, family friendly place with gorgeous home made cakes and scones.
The Patissere Valerie, London. Just superb.
Nell's Country Kithchen, Odiham. Where we stop when we go for a little boat trip on Basingstoke Canal.
The Willis Museum, Basingstoke. Outside of Festival Place, a quiet spot!
Lillies of Stockbridge.
The Forte Tea Rooms, Winchester. Worth the trouble to go up the stairs.
The Old Bakehouse, Beaulieu.
The Well Bread Bakery, Cowes. Long tables where everyone sits together. Enormous slices of bread, blocks of butter and vats of jam.

All the National Trust tea rooms, as well as many lovely places of which I have forgotten the names!

Which are your favourite places for afternoon tea ?!


  1. I love love afternoon tea! My favourite place is Claridges which is obviously very expensive so me and my mum only go on birthdays that end with a 0 or a 5. Its actually pretty good value though as its bascially unlimited so its like a v posh eat all you like buffet.

  2. That sounds like a good idea! Shame that I've already had my 40th birthday, will have to wait for 45 now...!
    Thanks for your comment. ;)

  3. Mmmm, Mr B and I love afternoon tea! Scones with cream and jam x.

  4. That's all I ever had when we first moved to England and were having afternoon tea, scones with crean and jam! :)

  5. Love afternoon tea. Never had a posh one though. I like my cake and my cups of tea big and hearty!

  6. Oh you would definitely like the Well Bread Bakery then !!!